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Lemon Tarts from La Collina

Diana and Patrick bake very lemony tarts with a sauce of crushed Summer berries at La Collina

Diana Rinaldo’s mother had a bakery in the Northern Italian town of Treviso, and Diana grew up breathing the yeasty fragrance of baking bread and buttery scents of new-baked cakes and biscuits. No wonder she wanted to be a chef. For three years after leaving school she worked in a shoe factory, squirreling away savings to cover catering-college fees. She must have been a star pupil, for a stage of her apprenticeship was at Cipriani in Venice – a name revered in culinary circles.

In England to study English, Diana got her big break cooking at Red Pepper in Warwick Avenue where she met Giorgio Locatelli, who was a consultant there. Locatelli’s offer of a job at Zafferano catapaulted the young cook with a baking speciality into London’s Michelin-starred league. Working as sous-chef at Conran’s Sartoria, she met Patrick Oberto, an Italian born into a restaurant family and now qualified as a restaurant manager. Patrick and Diana moved on as a couple to help open much-lauded restaurants in the West End, and in summer 2011 they fulfilled their dream of opening a restaurant together. “I don’t want Michelin stars, and I don’t want to be famous.” Diana shudders at the thought. “I just want to cook good, simple food.”

Lemon Tarts


Makes 4 tarts

for the pastry:

  • 200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • Yolks of 3 medium eggs
  • Few drops of vanilla essence
  • for the filling:
  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 2 large lemons, zested and juiced
  • 120g icing sugar
  • Yolks of 4 medium eggs, beaten
  • 2 whole medium eggs, beaten
  • Few drops vanilla essence

for the sauce and garnishes:

  • 100g blueberries,
  • 75g each raspberries and redcurrants
  • 3tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 amaretti biscuits, grated or finely crushed
  • 4 fine strawberries

Make pastry first. Cream butter with sugar and 1tsp lemon zest, beating them until pale, light and thoroughly amalgamated, then beat in yolks one at a time, beating well between each addition and adding vanilla essence with the last yolk.

Fold in flour and mix lightly, rubbing the crumbly mixture together with your fingers until it amalgamates in a ball. Tip dough on to a floured work surface, knead lightly until smooth and satiny then wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30mins.

Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas 4 and butter four 5cm tart tins. Use a fluted cutter to cut four circles and lay them carefully in the tins, pressing gently into place. Prick the bases here and there with a fork and bake 15-20mins. Cool in the tins until the pastry is firm, then lift out and transfer tart cases carefully to a baking rack to cool completely before filling.

To make the filling, melt butter in a saucepan with lemon juice and zest and icing sugar. Stir over heat until near boiling point then slowly stir in the yolks and continue to stir constantly until near boiling point. Stir in the beaten whole eggs and continue stirring until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat immediately and when it begins to cool add vanilla essence and leave to cool completely.

For the sauce, keep a few of the blueberries, rasps and redcurrants back for garnishing and tip the rest into a saucepan with the sugar. Warm over low heat, shaking the pan gently now and again until the juices start to run, then crush the fruits and strain off the syrupy juice.

Assemble tarts not too long before serving. Spoon or pipe filling into pastry cases, mounding up and finishing with a swirl. Sprinkle amaretti crumbs over each tart. Make a swirl of fruit sauce on each plate and position a tart to the side of it, then decorate with the reserved fruit.

La Collina

17 Princess Road

London NW1 8JR

Tel. 0207 7483 0192

Opening times:

Monday: dinner 6-10.30pm

Tuesday to Friday: lunch 12noon-2.30pm; dinner 6-10.30pm

Saturday and Sunday: lunch 12noon-4pm; dinner 6pm-10.30pm


Photography: Aruna Khanzada